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Obama: 'We Will Stand With Ukraine'

Obama Hosts Ukrainian Prime Minister in Signal to Russiai
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March 13, 2014 2:30 AM
President Barack Obama welcomed interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House Wednesday as part of U.S. efforts to defuse the growing crisis between Washington and Moscow. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports.
Watch related video from VOA's Luis Ramirez.
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President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. and its allies would be forced to apply a cost to Russia if it presses ahead with a referendum on Sunday that would effectively annex Crimea.

His comments came in a White House meeting with Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. With the prime minister sitting beside him Obama said "We will stand with Ukraine."  

This was Obama's first meeting with Yatsenyuk and was meant to underscore U.S. support for the new government and the Ukrainian people.

The president referred to Russia's military presence in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula as a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.  He also said Washington "completely rejects" Sunday's planned Russia-backed referendum that would have Crimea secede from Ukraine.  He said the vote, "patched together in a few weeks," is a violation of international law.

For his part, Yatsenyuk thanked Washington for its support, and said his government is "absolutely ready and willing" for talks with Moscow.  But said Ukraine will never surrender. He also said his government is preparing to sign an association agreement with the European Union later this month.

Obama said he hoped diplomatic efforts would lead to a "rethinking" of the Russian-backed referendum on Sunday, but he said if the vote does take place "We will not recognize any referendum that goes forward." 

As part of the talks, Obama and Yatsenyuk  discussed  financial assistance for Ukraine. The U.S. has already pledged $1 billion in aid.

In a separate show of support, a group of U.S. senators, headed by Senator John McCain, will be traveling to Ukraine for meetings this weekend.

Their trip takes place as the U.S. Senate is considering a package of possible new sanctions on Russia as well as economic aid to Ukraine. 

Kerry to meet again with with Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Friday to try to ease tensions over Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s planned Crimea referendum.

"The Secretary will continue to reaffirm the United States' unwavering support for Ukrainian sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation by Russia." the State Department said in a statement announcing Kerry's trip.

Last week, Kerry met with Lavrov twice in Europe to discuss the crisis over Ukraine. Neither meeting yielded any results.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 403 to six to condemn Russia for violating Ukraine's sovereignty in Crimea. The resolution also calls for international monitors to go to the region.

Moscow has officially denied that its troops are participating in the occupation of Crimea. But witnesses say military personnel in unmarked uniforms arrived in Russian-registered vehicles earlier this month and freely admit to being Russian.

G-7 blasts Russia

Joined by other leaders, the G-7 is calling on Russia to cease all efforts to change the status of Ukraine’s peninsula in violation of Ukrainian and international law.

A controversial Moscow-backed referendum on the territory’s status, which the West has said it will not recognize, is planned for Sunday.

“Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome,” says the G-7 statement as released by the White House.

Citing a number of international agreements the referendum would violate, the statement also stresses that “the annexation of Crimea [by Russia] could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states.”

“Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively,” the statement adds.

The statement was issued by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States as well as the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission.

It also reminds Moscow of "our decision to suspend participation in any activities related to preparation of a G-8 Sochi meeting until it changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion."

The summit in the Russian city was scheduled for June.

FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - U.S. Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
McCain floats anti-Russia measures

In response to Russia’s actions in Crimea Republican U.S. Senator John McCain has suggested a series of measures Congress should take against Moscow.

Among the steps he recommended in an interview with VOA would be the imposition of sanctions against individuals close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, especially those responsible for human rights abuses and corruption.

The senator also suggested the U.S. “start [its] missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, [and] accelerate the path of Georgia and Moldova into NATO,” – steps McCain believes would “change… Putin’s behavior.”

He also called on the Obama administration to stop pushing the “reset button” with Russia and to “understand Putin for what he is: a KGB colonel apparatchik who said the worst disaster of the 20th century was the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

Senator McCain will lead a delegation that includes seven other U.S. senators to Ukraine this weekend as a show of support during the country’s confrontation with Russia. The group will meet with Ukrainian political leaders and other groups.

The group includes Republicans John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Senators McCain and Murphy visited Kyiv in December, at the height of anti-government protests that eventually forced pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country.

EU readies sanctions

European Union member states have agreed on the wording of sanctions on Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes against those deemed responsible for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The seven-page document describes in detail the restrictive measures to be taken against Moscow if it does not reverse course in Crimea and begin talks with international mediators on efforts to resolve the crisis over Ukraine.

With the wording of the sanctions agreed, the EU is still working on the names of individuals to be targeted.

European officials have indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will not be on the list, so that channels of communication can be kept open.

Instead the list is expected to focus on targets close to Putin in the security services and military establishment as well as on prominent members of the Russian parliament.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that the European Union will impose sanctions on Russia if it does not move to set up a contact group to discuss the Crimea crisis.  Merkel also said that the EU could sign a political association agreement with Ukraine's new government during an EU summit next week.

Paris snubbing Moscow?

France threatened on Wednesday to pull out of planned ministerial talks with Russia next week unless Moscow helps to reduce tension between Russia and Ukraine.

The meeting is a regular fixture of bilateral relations between Russia and France but happens to be scheduled this year for March 18, two days after the planned Crimean referendum.

“This meeting can be held depending on progress over Ukraine... if on the Russian side there are elements that allow us to think this meeting will be useful,” an official at the office of French President Francois Hollande said.

The meeting would involve the foreign and defense of both countries.

OSCE’s Crimea mission blocked

The Russian military appears to have been involved with the armed groups who set up road blocks and prevented an unarmed OSCE observer mission from entering Ukraine's Crimea region last week, the United States said on Wednesday.         

The U.S. diplomatic mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) quoted a report by the OSCE observer team which said the gunmen appeared to have Russian military equipment and vehicles.

When the OSCE military observer team tried to get into Crimea last Saturday, warning shots were fired and it was turned back.
          
The monitors were “blocked five times in multiple locations by heavily armed guards lacking clear national identification,” a U.S. statement said.

It quoted the team's report as saying that its observations “produced significant evidence of equipment consistent with the presence of Russian Federation military personnel [in the vicinity of] the various roadblocks encountered during the period of the observation.”
          
The U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, said in the statement that the findings “…clearly suggests direct involvement by the Russian Federation….”

War games

Russia will send several warplanes to its military ally, Belarus, in response to increased NATO activity near the borders of the ex-Soviet republic, the commander of the Belorussian air force was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

President Alexander Lukashenko had said earlier that Belarus would ask Russia to deploy 12 to 15 warplanes on its territory after the United States and Poland began war games that are expected to involve at least 12 U.S. F-16 fighter jets.

Belarus borders Russia, Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Further south, a joint exercise of U.S., Bulgarian and Romanian naval forces in the Black Sea started on Wednesday. The drills were planned before the crisis in Ukraine but were reportedly moved up to underscore support for NATO nations near Russia.

  • An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 13, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian serviceman closes a gate as an armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 13, 2014.
  • A woman walks past a barricade as a Ukrainian flag flutters in the wind in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 13, 2014.
  • People talk about developments in Ukraine at a central square next to a statue of Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 12, 2014.
  • A woman passes by posters in support of Ukraine during the International poster campaign, Kyiv, March, 12, 2014.
  • People talk in Independence Square, Kyiv, March, 12, 2014.
  • A woman holds a dog sporting shoes and a ribbon in the colors of the Russian flag outside the regional parliament building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 12, 2014.
  • A member of a self-defense volunteer group, with makeshift shin guards bearing a picture of a wolf, polishes his boots in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 11, 2014. 
  • Members of a Crimean self-defense unit check the passport of a passenger at the railway station in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 11, 2014. 


Some reporting by Reuters

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by: Simonzee1 from: Australia
March 13, 2014 2:18 AM
This will be quite fitting for a coup leader and Obama to have a pow-wow. Two people who talk of democracy but undermine the principles thereof.This visit is just more Obama swag...more smoke and mirrors from a president that would love the "Hollywood" sign placed above the statue of Liberty, "Hollywood best represents American values," he says. He has just done an interview to attract the youth vote. Must be getting ready for hand outs rather than a hand up.

Well he is alwsys right in his own mind as he gives us a great mix of fiction mixed with non-fiction storylines..

Meanwhile back in the real world....the real what they call... "Water Shed in Modern History" is Libya with America, France and Britain...and Johnny-come-lately Germany exercising their mission creep and murder.

That opened the floodgates of a new arms race...Nations now know if they do not have nuclear weapons their sovereignty at any moment could be kicked to the wayside.

The Ukraine is as successul for the West in sending other troubling messages like..."If you don't like your government have a coup." Much worse that "If you like your health plan you can keep it."

Following the example in the Ukraine protestors in Libya took you up on your version of international law and started shooting MP's and storming Congress.

Clearly....undeniably... after "Libya"... NATO...the E.U and the U.N has very little credibility.As I said before those 67% of Americans who as it stands, would like to throw their lawmakers to the street if they could, may wish to consider the option when their gas bills become unaffordable as vast amounts of gas are exported to Europe to play cold war games. What did Obama say to Romney..."Hhhh...the cold war ended 20 years ago." Well he is in a hurry to bring it back after the Libyan mission creep and the supporting of a coup with the E.U.

Just look at the current state of Libya. I'm sure Putin will do a better job with Crimea but I think the E.U and America are determined for the Ukraine to become another Libya. If they cannot have it all they will wreck it all. That's their legacy folks just look at the middle-east.

by: Hong Ha from: Vietnam
March 13, 2014 2:16 AM
Mr. Obama said "We Will Stand With Ukraine". But not all Ukrainians need him to stand with them, especially those in the South East and those in Crimea. You are not welcome there. So Mr. Obama, before you wish to stand by someone you must see if they wish to stand with you or not. One drug may be good for some people but may be a poison to others. So pls think twice before uttering a word.

by: Huang Jun from: China
March 13, 2014 1:01 AM
The people of Crimea have every right to decide their own fate. They have the right to declare independence from Ukraine because Kiev has no longer standed for their interests. It is the democracy in the 21 st century that the West is opposing!

by: Miron from: Seattle
March 12, 2014 11:54 PM
It's being awhile since US joined fascist junta.

Well... not that much... Pinochet... Franko...

The dark days are back.

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
March 12, 2014 11:48 PM
America is a joke!
Crimea has the right to choose their own path!
The world stand with Crimea ppl!

by: Igor from: Russia
March 12, 2014 11:35 PM
Mr. Obama said "We will stand with Ukraine." But his saying is not clear enough. He should have said "We will stand with the pro-Western Ukrainians" because what he have done so far is supporting the illegal pro-western government in Kiev without caring for the interests of the rest of Ukrainian population.

by: Anonymous
March 12, 2014 10:54 PM
Excellent now the world must do everything possible non-militarily to slap the hand of Putin. Putin will not be liked back in Russia for doing such stupid things that risk the way of life for Russian people. Putin cares nothing about the Russian people, he has his own pockets lined. Lets hold him accountable in Syria too.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
March 12, 2014 9:06 PM
While Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize within a week after becoming the U.S. President, without doing anything for peace, he is upholding his Nobel Prize by excusing the Russian occupation of Abkhasia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Cremea in Ukraine. Financial sanctions against some individuals in Russia and Ukraine are just a face saving US action, instead of stringent financial sanctions against Russia. Military intervention of US is a myth whether there is any Russian or Chinese aggression. NATO is ineffective to the transgressions of Russia, defeating the purpose of NATO. Countries like Syria, Georgia and Ukraine epitomizes the lack of the will of President Obama and the US to confront Russia, encouraging China to come up with more territorial claims in India and the countries bordering the South China Sea. When will the US wake up from paralysis in international affairs? The failure of Obama administration to install the missile defense system in Czeck Republic and Poland emboldened Russian occupation in the neighboring countries. Severe economic embargo on trade with Russia and ruble are the only non-military actions the US and EU could take. But the effectiveness of these actions to deter Russia is speculative. Such sanctions will only prolong the Russian occupation of parts of Ukraine. Which is the next country on the border with Russia to fall to Russian occupation? When will Russia again become the Soviet Union?

by: Erdem from: Mongolia
March 12, 2014 7:05 PM
Have someone... anyone "stood" with Iraq when it was accused of having chemical weapons and bombed to stoneage...and its leader was arrested and hanged live on TV ???????? "We'll stand with Ukraine" what a BS.

by: meanbill from: USA
March 12, 2014 2:13 PM
NO MATTER what the US and EU say's about the legality of Crimea voting to become an independent state, it's what the "International Court of Justice" ruled on Kosovo that matters, isn't it?
IT'S LEGAL .. the "International Court of Justice" rule when Kosovo voted to become an independent state .. and the US,EU, and NATO bombed the crap out of Serbia, to provide the land for Kosovo, using military force against Serbia, didn't they? .... (Kosovo, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Crimea?) .... IF one is legal in the eyes of the "International Court of Justice" all the others are too, aren't they?
THE GREATEST THING to come out of this Ukraine crisis? ... Putin gave the Russian people back their PRIDE, wherever they are in the world... NOTHING can stop that feeling of overwhelming PRIDE the Russians feel now.. ........ REALLY
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